Common Questions (Q&A) on COVID-19 temporary suspension and BSS examinations generally

People new to boating and some existing boaters, fresh to inland waters where the BSS Certification is required, often have questions about the concept of the Boat Safety Scheme. Below are the answers to some of the more common questions.

We have advice for anyone having their boat examined concerning the precautions related to COVID-19

Before you book and have your boat's BSS Examination, please read these hints and tips about how Covid-19 precautions may effect your examination on the day [LINK]

General questions about BSS Examinations and Certification

Is it a legal requirement?

Owners of boats in scope of the Scheme are required by their navigation authorities to have a valid Boat Safety Scheme Certification as demonstration that they met the minimum safety requirements before they can moor or cruise on most of the UK’s inland waterways.

My boat is very small and has an outboard motor, do I need BSS Certification?

On most waterways, a BSS Examination is not required in respect of any privately owned, open vessel (i.e. a vessel in which all the accommodation is completely open to the elements) if it has no domestic cooking, heating, refrigerating or lighting appliances installed and it is propelled solely by an outboard engine. Please ask the navigation or harbour authority that will be licensing or registering your boat, as it sets the terms and conditions of that registration.

The rules are likely to be different if the boat is in commercial, community or other public use, or is a workboat. Ask the navigation or harbour authority for more detail about the operating terms and conditions including BSS Certification.

How do I know if there is a boat examiner near me?

You can check on the Find An Examiner page to search for an examiner. It’s a very simple process and all our examiners are extremely helpful.

How often do I need to get examined?

Once every four years.

People tell me it’s really expensive, is it?

Not really. Boats need to be examined only once every four years and over four years the cost is similar to what car owners would have spent on MOTs. Boat owners can use an examiner recommended to them by their marina or boater friends, or they can use the Find An Examiner page to search for the best value examination locally. The cost of a BSS Examination is not set, and so it may pay to shop around.

What is the Boat Safety Scheme?

The Boat Safety Scheme, or BSS, is a public safety initiative. Its purpose is to help minimise the risk of boat fires, explosions, or pollution harming visitors to the inland waterways, the waterways' workforce and any other users.

Who’s behind it?

It is owned by the Canal & River Trust and the Environment Agency and supported by many other navigation and harbour authorities - read more on the About Us page

Isn’t it just more bureaucracy to deal with?

Quite the opposite. The BSS is about taking reasonable practical steps that help boat owners keep safe on the water by following a simple process of minimum safety requirements. These have been developed and reviewed by stakeholders from across the boating spectrum including boat owner organisations, the marine trade, surveyors and navigation authorities.

I’m already very thorough – do I need to be involved?

Without doubt, most boat owners are very thorough in their pursuit of enjoyable boating and keeping themselves and their crew safe. However examinations have been proven to spot the early development of hazards that would lead to fire, explosion, carbon monoxide poisoning or electrocution.

If I don’t engage what happens? How will affect my boating?

The BSS is not an enforcement body, but your navigation authority may withdraw its permission for you to use or moor your boat on its waterway if you don’t have current BSS Certification.

You may also find it affects your boat insurance and your choice of marinas and moorings for fear that your boat could cause damage to yourself or the people around you.

My boat is already safe though so what's the need?

The Scheme is there to protect you, your family and friends from harm introduced by other boats. Naturally it means your boat has to be examined too for the mutual assurance of everyone using or working on the waterway near your boat. At the same time you’ll also be better aware of any potential risks that might be developing on your boat as time passes.

My boat is new, does it need a BSS examination?

Most navigation authorities will accept a boat builders Declaration of Conformity or DoC (this must be provided with all new boats sold in Europe and UK) in-lieu of a BSS Certification. For part-built boats DoC some navigation authorities will be accept the Declaration for the first year. With complete boats, most navigation authorities will accept the DoC in-lieu of a BSS Certification for the first four years.

After that a BSS Certification may be required to support an application to use the waterway.

Self-built boats without a DoC will most likely need a BSS Certification from day one to support a licence/registration/mooring application.

I’ve just bought my boat with a full survey performed by a qualified marine surveyor. Will my boat still need BSS Certification?

Navigation authorities are assured when boats are verified as meeting the BSS requirements by someone who has been trained and assessed as capable of carrying out BSS examinations to set checking procedures (read them on our website) and operates under a quality controlled and insured regime.

Your surveyor hopefully has been thorough for the purchase-making decision process, but the navigation authority won’t have the assurance that the survey or surveyor meets their criteria.

I have a new BSS Certification, will my navigation authority want a copy?

It may request a copy of the Certification report, but nearly all the participating navigation authorities have direct access to the BSS database so they may need nothing from you, or they may simply ask for the BSS Certification number and relevent examination and expiry dates.

Please ask your navigation authority registration or customer services team.

My boat’s has a current BSS Certification, can I assume I’m safe?

You’ll have the assurance and peace of mind that the BSS examination brings, but you need to stay aware that things change over time. Something in reasonable condition on the day of examination may alter or deteriorate before the next examination. You may also buy some new equipment, so that needs to be installed in safe way too.

Also it’s not just the condition or installation of the system that can be hazardous, the way something is used can introduce unwanted risk – to help you with that, we have more information on our web pages at

How do I become an examiner?

You will already have a lot of expertise and knowledge about boat systems and boats. You'll be passionate about helping keeping people to stay safe. You will be fully confident about using computers or tablets. And you will have a business plan. For more detail click here

Not answered..?

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